Two-faced cat still feline fine
Frank and Louie the cat was born with two faces, two mouths, two noses, three eyes - and lots of doubts about his future.
Now, 12 years after Marty Stevens rescued him from being put to sleep because of his condition, the exotic blue-eyed rag doll cat is not only thriving, but has also made it into the 2012 edition of Guinness World Records.
Frank and Louie is the longest-surviving member of a group known as Janus cats, named after a Roman god with two faces.
"Every day is kind of a blessing; being 12 and normal life expectancy when they have this condition is one to four days," said Ms Stevens, of Worcester, Massachusetts, stroking Frank and Louie's soft fur as he sat on her lap purring.
Frank and Louie's breeder had taken him to the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University, where Ms Stevens was working at the time, to be put down when he was just a day old. Ms Stevens offered to take him home, but experts told her not to get her hopes up.
Janus cats almost never survive and most have congenital defects, including a cleft palate that makes it difficult for them to nurse and often causes them to slowly starve or get milk in their lungs and die of pneumonia. The condition is the result of a genetic defect that triggers excessive production of a certain kind of protein.
But Frank and Louie did not suffer from most of the common Janus problems. Ms Stevens used feeding tubes to nourish him for three months, hoping that would also save him from the danger of choking on food going down two mouths. But she need not have worried - Frank and Louie used just one of his mouths to eat.
Colleagues at the veterinary hospital told Ms Stevens that trying to raise Frank and Louie might not be good for him - or her. However, she "stood firm and stood by the cat, and I'm really glad she did because this cat really has fewer problems than many cats that have very normal anatomies", Dr deLaforcade said.
Frank and Louie's two faces have a complicated relationship. Both noses work, but one mouth does not have a lower jaw and is not connected to his one oesophagus, so he cannot eat with it. Ms Stevens discovered that only after the cat got an MRI scan later in life. The animal can see out of only two of his three eyes. The middle one cannot even blink and makes Frank and Louie appear to be staring even when his other eyes are closed.
But Frank and Louie does not seem to be bothered by his condition and has developed a friendly personality. The breed is known for its soft and silky fur, docile temperament and penchant for relaxing in a person's arms like a rag doll.